It is one of the best-kept secrets in the world. As freed hostages step on the tarmac after being released by terror groups in places like
Lately, more and more governments are advocating for a ban on such payments. Yet experts believe that, faced with a moral dilemma and pressure of public opinion, many governments still pay millions of dollars in ransom money to terror groups.
As South Africans continue to wait for news of schoolteacher
In its latest risk report, consultancy Control Risk Management cites
Other studies also indicate that
'It is the single largest source of income for a number of key groups, including
Ewi says that the governments of the
Yet, this remains a very difficult moral choice, as governments could be accused of failing to assist citizens who become kidnap victims.
Ewi says this moral dilemma, which is faced by governments all over the world, is one of the reasons why this is such a sensitive issue. 'Even former hostages won't talk about it, because keeping this issue a secret is often part of the conditions of their release,' he says.
The South African government seems to be taking a case-by-case approach on the issue - sometimes with a high-profile approach and at other times discreetly participating in negotiations.
The government has consistently denied paying any ransom for its citizens. In
A ransom of
The Korkie case has created unprecedented media interest, particularly after the involvement of charity organisation, Gift of the Givers. A deadline to pay a ransom of over
His wife, Yolande, who was released by the kidnappers and returned to
South African Deputy Minister in the
While fewer foreigners might now be travelling to the dangerous zones in the Sahel, local workers of foreign companies and NGOs are still at risk, says Ewi.
Earlier this month, five Malians working for the
Ewi says that the kidnapping of locals could also be used to put political pressure on African governments - who are not likely to pay for their citizens' release - to yield to certain terrorist demands such as the release of prisoners, or even to abandon certain policies.
'Depending on the response, this could become a trend,' says Ewi. In
This has abated somewhat since the 2009 amnesty offered to MEND by the Nigerian government, but Ewi says that the kidnapping of foreign and local oil workers in that country continues. The issue is just not receiving the same media attention it had in the past.
Lately, foreigners in northern
Two high-profile cases last year - one of a French family kidnapped in
Ewi says that while the organisation had initially distanced itself from kidnapping for ransom, considering it a 'dirty business,' it now engages with this practice because of the potential profits involved.
The group's biggest ransom thus far is believed to be a payment of
Could the tracking of financial transactions be of some assistance in fighting this problem? The fight against piracy has been aided, for example, by tracking the financial transactions of Somali pirates in Kenyan real estate.
Ewi says that this is unlikely to work. While pirates engage in kidnapping for personal gain, terror groups use proceeds to further their activities.
Putting an end to political instability and zones of lawlessness remain some of the only ways to stop kidnapping for ransom in
An agreement among states to universally prohibit the payment of ransoms, perhaps through an international treaty, will also certainly assist.
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